Weekend Links with Jon Marthaler: Are the Twins' young players more likely to fail?

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • August 31, 2013 - 1:13 PM

I had a plan for the Twins in 2013. Or, more accurately, at the start of 2013, I had a plan for the 2014 Twins, or maybe the 2015 Twins, all of course based on the Twins' outstanding crop of minor-league prospects. Six Twins were ranked in the Top 100 prospects in baseball, and so I penciled all six into the future lineups: Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks, and Oswaldo Arcia in the outfield, Miguel Sano at third base, and Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer anchoring the rotation.

We've completed almost an entire season since then. The excitement surrounding Buxton and Sano has yet to diminish; I've been thinking Cooperstown should probably keep some notes on what to put on their plaques. But Gibson was terrible in the majors, Arcia was up and down, Meyer got hurt, and Hicks has become a figure of fun for his struggles at every level. All four could still succeed, but I'm starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn't throw those future lineup cards away.

Now I read this study from Scott McKinney, published at Royals Review, of all of the Top 100 prospects for a period spanning 14 seasons. It is, shall we say, sobering. As it turns out, more than two out of three Top 100 prospects fail completely. Prospects ranked in the top 20 have a much better chance of succeeding, but even among those elite, nearly half of position players and nearly two-thirds of pitchers fail to even become good major leaguers, never mind superstars.

You'll forgive me if I'm having trouble coming to grips with this. As it turns out, Gibson and Meyer have about a 20% chance of ever being anything more than former top-100 prospects Dan Serafini and Pat Mahomes. Hicks and Arcia are more likely than not to go the way of 1994's #37 prospect, Rich Becker.

And Buxton and Sano? I don't even want to think about it. I don't want to think about another player, in the top three prospects in all of baseball for four straight years, who - just like Sano - destroyed Double-A pitching as a 20-year-old. He went to Triple-A the next year and raked there, and was deemed a future superstar, and he went up to the majors and got a few hits, and it was only then that he became the player that he'd later turn out to be: Delmon Young.

*On with the links:

*This might be the post of the year: Spencer Hall, on the story of offensive line coach Herb Hand, and really on offensive linemen in general.

*I really like it when Grantland sends Brian Phillips to tennis tournaments.

*Will Leitch ruminates on the relationship between athlete and sportswriter, with a reminder that the writer can never, ever win.

*And finally: fewer people watched Fox Sports 1's opening week than watched the Speed Channel the previous week. Oof.

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